Tag Archives: ephemera

LSS: Ephemera and beyond

Nothing of great consequence happened Thursday.
It was one of those days full of working, running errands, dropping the kids off here and there, followed by cooking fried rice for dinner.
Other than the fried rice, something we don’t eat often, Thursday was the kind of day that makes up the great majority of life. And, it was the kind of day we don’t remember.
However, if I had a time machine and could go back and visit a day of my youth, I’d probably pick a day like Thursday. One of those days that in its commonplaceness becomes rich.
The kind of day that makes us who we are.
Examining such a day made me realize just how fleeting these days of kids and piano lessons and play practices are. All of this train of thought reminds me of a word I learned last week.
Ephemera.
Maybe it’s a word you know and use on a regular basis. If so, you’re a step ahead of me. I had never read or heard it before. Ephemera is written and printed matter not intended to be retained or preserved.
Truth be told, I’m somewhat of an ephemera collector.
Turns out, there’s an Ephemera Society of America, a non-profit organization formed in 1980, dedicated to cultivating and encouraging interest in ephemera and furthering the understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of ephemera by people of all ages.
Officially, according to the 402-page Encyclopedia of Ephemera, there are more than 500 categories from luggage tags to fruit labels to theater tickets to seed company ads. Who knew all that stuff could become so official?
As it turns out, my grandmother was an ephemera collector too. She kept cigar box after cigar box (another ephemera category, by the way) of empty seed packs, receipts from the county co-op and every Christmas card she ever received. The stuff she kept is from way before my time, but when I look through the small boxes, the items give me a sense of what life must have been like back then that I just don’t get from anywhere else.
Sifting through my grandmother’s unintended collections is a window into her world—just like opening an old book and finding an airline ticket from 1987 or a hall pass from middle school brings back a flood of feelings and memories from my own life. The ordinariness of the item is jarring in its preservation.
In case you’re interested, some retail outlets sell packets of ephemera. The packs include a variety of stamps, postcards, pages from old magazines, trims and toothpick flags. They can be themed upon request. Yep, you can buy 5 oz. of vintage ephemera for $25 or 6 oz. of contemporary ephemera for $18.
“Every pack is unique,” so one catalog says.
I would imagine so because it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around selling such.
The word ephemera is, of course, related to the word ephemeral, which I’ve heard but probably misinterpreted or mis-used over the years. Ephemeral means lasting for a very short time.
As Thursday passed and I simultaneously reminded my children to brush-teeth-pick-up-clothes-clean-off-the-table-because-it’s-time-for-bed, the present-tense nostalgia of how quickly today’s ordinariness will pass lingered with me for just a moment.
And I tried, as best I could, to take it in.